Probably the most short-lived but the most quintessentially Korean event in the springtime is the blooming of the cherry blossom trees. The cherry blossoms do not bring happy memories to the Korean people since they were brought over to Korea from Japan during Japan’s colonization here, but today most Koreans are able to celebrate the beautiful scenery they create for such a short period of time every year. The blooming begins in the south of Korea and works its way up to Seoul. This year the blossoms were in full bloom in Jinhae from April 1st through April 10th. They will be arriving in Seoul in the next couple weeks. Fortunately, I had a school holiday on Friday so I decided to make the trek to Jinhae to see the infamous cherry blossom festival, which is known as the best in Korea. This was the first time for me to travel somewhere all by myself. I was a little anxious, but mostly excited to get away from Seoul and have a couple days to relax alone. Getting there was easy besides the fact that I had to take a 5 A.M. train. The KTX from Seoul to Jinhae takes about 3 hours. There is one transfer stop in Changwon. It costs almost $50 one-way. It’s not the cheapest option, but definitely the most convenient. As you approach Jinhae the train tracks are lined with cherry blossom trees.
When you step out of the train station you can see the festival grounds straight ahead and you are immediately surrounded by cherry blossoms. I arrived there bright and early so I had plenty of time to explore. When I got there they were just setting up the tents with food and shopping. I got acquainted with the festival grounds and after wandering around for a while I saw a cable car ride that takes you up to a tower looking over Jinhae. I had read that this was a must-see and since it was early there were no crowds and I was able to get right on. This was the perfect start to my day because I got to see a beautiful view of Jinhae and I had a birds’ eye view of the festival so I had a good sense of where everything was. From the top I could see everything from the naval academy on the coastline to the mountains lined with cherry blossoms.
This was where I began my quest to see how many strangers I could ask to take my picture. One of the downfalls of traveling alone….Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) for me I was the only foreigner for miles so the Koreans were excited to take my picture, in fact most of them wanted to take a picture of me with their own cameras. I still find it amazing how many Koreans, young and old, have still never seen a foreigner. I realized I wasn’t in good old Seoul anymore.
After the cable car ride I walked around for the next six hours and found the infamous Yeojwa Stream, some beautiful parks, and some mountains as well. One perk about traveling alone is that you can do what you want and go where you want without making too many pit stops. I walked around aimlessly forever, got a little lost along the way, but found some cool spots including my own English school, “Jeniffer’s English Academy: Learning English in English” What a concept!
After spending the night at a surprisingly nice motel, I used the last bit of my time in Jinhae to check out the Naval Academy and to walk around the town one last time. I was definitely sad to leave because it was such a beautiful weekend all around, but I was looking forward to getting back to Seoul to see some familiar faces again. This is definitely a must-see if you are in Korea during April.